Ed's Story: 'South Shore Hospital Absolutely Saved My Life'

On February 5, 2023, Ed Newell was participating in a mountain biking event at Wompatuck State Park when he had a life-altering accident.

"I hit a log," he said. "The bike stopped and I kept going. The ground was frozen and I got run right into the ground over my handlebars."

"My whole body went numb upon impact," he continued. "Something in me told me that everything had just changed in a second."

By chance, Jason Tracy, MD, former Chair of Emergency Medicine and current Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at South Shore Health, was riding nearby with Emergency Medicine colleague Jeffrey Johnson, MD when he got a phone call from event organizers that Ed needed help.

"We kind of got to size up the situation that he was truly not able to move anything at all and was indeed paralyzed," said Dr. Tracy. "At that point, we knew we needed to make sure we kept things stabilized and looked after him while we waited for EMS to arrive."

Timely neurosurgical care, close to home

Ed was transported to South Shore Hospital, where caregivers determined he wasn't stable enough to be transferred into Boston and that the South Shore Health team had the resources and ability to give Ed the care he needed locally.

"I felt strongly that this is a patient we could do an excellent job taking care of here," said neurosurgeon James Stephen, MD of Brigham and Women's Neurosurgery at South Shore Health. "It felt good to do it in a setting where I had people around me that I trusted that I knew were doing the best for him."

James Stephen, MD, wearing surgical clothing, adjusts an overhead light above an operating table
James Stephen, MD is a neurosurgeon at Brigham and Women's Neurosurgery at South Shore Health.

Dr. Stephen and his team performed surgery to stabilize Ed's neck and open up the area around his spinal cord. 

After a successful surgery, Ed went to the Hospital's Critical Care Unit (CCU), where he began his long road to recovery.

A community of compassionate caregivers

Photo of KT, a nurse at South Shore Hospital's Critical Care Unit, checking an IV bag
K.T. was one of the many compassionate caregivers on Ed's care team.

Once in the CCU, Ed and his wife, Sara, felt supported, informed, and encouraged by Ed's caregivers.

Ed faced setbacks while in the CCU, including an infection and a bout with COVID-19, but he and Sara were prepared for the ups and downs.

"They told me that recovery is like climbing a mountain," Sara said. "It's not linear. You go up and you go down in the valley...go back up and down until you finally reach the summit."

"[They said] we don't know what the summit will be," Sara continued. "But we can tell you that we will take care of everything that challenges him...and that's exactly what they did."

Over the course of Ed's recovery, he and Sara felt the effects of South Shore Health's connected, coordinated, and compassionate care.

"[The] team helped me find the right paths for all of the administrative, logistical stuff that I needed to take care of." Sara said. "I had Jeannie, I had Trish, I had the doctors and the nurses who kept me up to date on everything. I don't know whether you guys are just too good at your jobs or you have a special sauce, because I felt supported when I was at South Shore."

"Everybody expressed empathy and understood the gravity of what I was going through," Ed said. "They provided as much moral support as medical care."

Coordinating the next level of care

Trish from Care Progression sits at her desk on the phone at South Shore Hospital
Trish, a member of our Care Progression Team, helped Ed continue his recovery at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

As Ed continued to improve, it became clear that he would need specialized spinal cord and neurological care to allow him to continue his recovery. 

With few facilities specializing in that kind of care, it can be difficult to find a place – but South Shore Health's Care Progression Team sprang to action.

"Trish, the Case Manager, she took us on," Sara said. "She said 'don't worry, I'm going to take care of you. I'm going to get him into Spaulding.'"

A few days later, Trish called Sara with the good news: Ed would be moving to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston to continue his journey.

Intensive therapy and a return home

Ed sitting at a table with a physical therapist, moving a weighted ball back and forth on the table with his hand, wrist, and forearm
Spaulding's intensive therapy helped Ed continue his remarkable recovery.

At Spaulding, Ed received intensive physical and occupational therapy to help him rebuild his strength and regain the ability to perform daily functions.

On May 17, 2023, Ed was discharged from Spaulding and returned to his home in Duxbury to continue his recovery.

"I feel really good about where I am, having come home and made the strides that I've recently made," Ed said. "I'm really hopeful for what lies ahead."

Lifesaving care after a life-altering accident

Ed, using a walker, walks next to his wife, Sara, in the driveway of their Duxbury home.
Ed has continued to make remarkable progress since his discharge from Spaulding.

At the time of his accident, there were concerns that Ed's injuries could be life-threatening.

However, thanks to the initial surgical intervention and care at South Shore Hospital, the rehabilitation at Spaulding, and Ed and Sara's own determination and strength, Ed is looking forward to continuing his recovery.

"South Shore Hospital absolutely saved my life," Ed said. "Most C3 and C4 fractures, which is what I had, don't live to give this interview."

"I can only attribute it to the care that I received at South Shore Hospital," he continued. "I just don't know what I did to deserve the good fortune for the care that I've had."

"They saved him," Sara said. "They saved me. They saved us. From the nurses to the doctors, to surgical teams, to Jeannie and Trish...heartfelt thanks."

Learn more about Neurosurgery and Critical Care at South Shore Health.

Watch an interview with Ed, Sara, and Ed's Care Team.